Metro Nashville Health Department Changes Its Reporting on Coronavirus Cases Traceable to Construction Industry


Metro Nashville Health Department officials, whose COVID-19 policies have robbed people of their livelihoods, admitted Wednesday to incorrectly documenting the number of people in the city’s construction industry who contracted the virus.

And the discrepancy in the numbers wasn’t a small mistake either.

As The Tennessee Star reported this week, Metro Health employee Leslie Waller said in a June 30 email that Metro employees had traced exactly 1,251 cases of COVID-19 to people in Nashville’s construction industry.

We contacted Waller by email Wednesday. We specifically asked how she and her colleagues counted those cases. Waller declined to respond and instead forwarded our email to Metro Health spokesman Brian Todd.

Todd, in an emailed response, said:

There was a typo that showed 1,251 cases associated with construction sites…the actual number was 251.  It was corrected by our epi team.

I was not aware of the typo until a reporter pointed out the number.  I hope this helps.

In an email to Cooper spokesman Chris Song, The Star asked for the real number of COVID-19 cases traceable to the construction industry between March and Wednesday of this week. We also asked what Cooper would say to members of the public who worry about the accounting discrepancy.

Song did not return our request for comment Wednesday.

The August 10 edition of The Tennessee Lookout reported that Nashville’s construction sites had 233 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The website also said that  “the city’s loosely regulated construction sites have emerged as the No. 2 source of the city’s coronavirus clusters.”

“By last week, there were 233 COVID cases associated with outbreaks at 18 Nashville construction sites,” The Lookout reported last month.

“Only long term care facilities have had more identified outbreaks, with 27 nursing homes identified as Nashville cluster sources.”

‘Record Number of Clusters’

As The Star reported Monday, Cooper announced at a July 2 press conference that public health investigators “have found a record number of clusters originating from bars within the past week.” At the time, data showed Davidson County had about 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Later in that press conference, WPLN’s Blake Farmer asked for details about the mayor’s claim of “record clusters” around bars.

Dr. Alex Jahangir, chair of the Metro Nashville and Davidson County Government Coronavirus Task Force, responded to that question.

Jahangir said:

Saturday afternoon [June 27] I got a call from one of our leaders of our epidemiologists. And this is not something that typically happens that I get a call. They were like hey, we are starting to see something. And very quickly this is right at the beginning. They recognized that there was some trend they saw out there they were starting to see that was not typical. They reached out to me. Reached out to the mayor. And all the teams really started working together all weekend to get into the details here.

What we’re seeing is there are about at least 10 locations around the city that have had at least a total of 30 people confirmed that have tested positive. And these are Davidson County residents. And there may be others at these locations that live outside of Davidson County they may have been infected.

Last week, Center Square reporter Vivian Jones, citing Metro Public Data, said that only 112 of Nashville’s 27,009 cases of COVID-19 were linked to the city’s bars. The data also linked 109 of the 112 cases linked to bars downtown, according to her report.

“Despite bars accounting for less than half of one percent of the city’s COVID-19 cases, bars have faced some of the most stringent restrictions under public health orders since pandemic-related shutdowns began in March,” Center Square reported.

Contact Tracing

In the internal June 30 Metro Health Department email, Waller, traced 19 cases of COVID-19 to bars and three to restaurants since March.

June 30 was a Tuesday. This was three days after the Saturday, June 27 call to which Jahangir referred in his July 2 press conference. And this was two days before the July 2 press conference on Thursday.

Waller’s data also traced 21 clusters and 1,159 confirmed COVID-19 cases to the city’s long-term care and other healthcare facilities.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]







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3 Thoughts to “Metro Nashville Health Department Changes Its Reporting on Coronavirus Cases Traceable to Construction Industry”

  1. Mary

    Reported cases.
    How many hospitalizations?
    How many deaths?
    I am not real concerned about people who have the sniffles or no symptoms, I care about the number of really sick people, people who require medical care.

  2. Karen Bracken

    We have very flimsy recall laws in TN but we can recall a city Mayor. The Nashville City Mayor needs to be recalled before he takes a once vibrant city and drives it into the ground as Democrats have done for decades in other once vibrant cities. Do you want Nashville to end up like Chicago or Baltimore? It is headed in that direction if you don’t address it NOW. Get rid if that Mayor and send a message…NOT IN MY CITY!!

  3. Julie

    They may have identified a significant error now but as of June 30 they thought they had 1,251 construction infections and construction sites were allowed to remain open (the TN Lookout reported a much lower number August 10 but no one saw it). I would expect more corrections as they review their documents and as more people question their data/decision making ahead of these lawsuits. Too bad we don’t have the same expectations of government that we have in the private sector.